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By Steve Johnson, Chairman of the Florida Citrus Commission

This week, I was elected Chairman of the Florida Citrus Commission. It is a great honor and privilege to serve this industry at a time when there is so much at stake. This past year has been difficult on many levels. But it also brought about great opportunity. Unprecedented shifts in the way the world lives, works, and consumes greatly impacted our industry. These changes – from a return to eating breakfast at home to a renewed focus on health and wellness – have led to an increase in sales of 100% orange juice unlike ever before. As a grower, I am thankful and humbled by this show of support. The past few years have been a struggle for our industry as we’ve faced ongoing pests and disease and natural disasters. This renewal of consumer interest in Florida OJ is fueling a momentum we have long sought.

As we approach the one-year mark of this shift in consumer behavior, we must remember that there is still much work to be done. Decades of sharing messages about the health benefits of Florida OJ with consumers helped get us where we are today. The FDOC’s well-timed timed launch of an e-commerce program designed for the world we now find ourselves in furthered that success, which continues today. Since July, the e-commerce programs have reached 227 million impressions and delivered $9.7 million in attributable sales of 100% orange juice with a Return On Ad Spend (ROAS) of $9.17.

Those efforts must continue to ensure that Florida OJ remains top of mind as the world slowly emerges from this period.

Today, we continue to see total OJ sales with average year-over-year sales increased 13 percent with 37.23 million equivalent gallons sold in the four-week period ending Jan. 23, according to the latest Nielsen Retail sales report. Sales of NFC OJ are up by 16.7 percent and sales of Recon OJ are up by nearly 6.7 percent.

As we begin to close out the first year of life in the pandemic, the FDOC will start reporting Nielsen retail sales with data from sales in 2019 and sales in 2020.  We do not expect to see a match to the spike in sales we saw in March of 2020 when pantry stockpiling was a key consumer behavior. Instead, we will look across multiple years of data to show sales trends in both pre-pandemic and current environments as we watch shopping patterns evolve through the phases. The ultimate goal is to see that our volume sales this year continue to outpace the sales volumes of 2019.

Beyond demand, we must also keep an eye on the size of this season’s crop. Over the years, HLB has reduced yields and resulted in higher production costs leading to lower grower returns. This season’s Florida production meets current demand, but imported juice is required to support the NFC market moving forward until Florida production recovers. Investment in consumer awareness today contributes to stronger consumer demand in the future. Thus, we must also invest in long-term Florida production and infrastructure to stay on pace and protect the Florida grower’s position in the industry.

Originally published in the Florida Citrus Mutual Triangle